EDITORIAL- The other global pandemic

The Philippine Star

Every hour somewhere on the planet, more than five women or girls are killed by members of their own family. This is the estimate of United Nations Women, which notes that violence against women and girls remains the most widespread and pervasive human rights violation in the world, affecting over one in three women. UN Women calls it a global pandemic of VAWG as it noted increased repression, violence including online and impunity against defenders of women’s rights.

In the Philippines, Republic Act 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act was passed in 2004. The abuses, however, continue. A report published in respected medical journal The Lancet this year said COVID lockdowns worsened the problem in the Philippines, with victims often trapped at home with their abusers, and their ability to seek help from authorities restricted.

The pandemic also rendered many women unemployed and economically dependent on their partners, making it harder to fight domestic violence or report them to authorities, the report pointed out. While the country ranks high in gender equality in the Western Pacific and groups working against VAWG are active, an estimated one in four Filipino women has experienced gender-based violence, and 41 percent of the victims do not seek help.

At least the current President of the republic no longer publicly makes rape jokes or encourages the military to “shoot women ‘communist rebels’ in the vagina.” He is also on good terms with his female Vice President and accords her respect both as the nation’s second highest official and as a woman.

More, however, must be done to end VAWG, including increased funding for the campaign. The country has had women holding positions of power and taking on jobs in traditionally male-dominated fields. RA 9262 also has some of the toughest provisions against VAWG.

Yet the abuses continue, with many women particularly in impoverished communities unaware of their rights and avenues for help under the law. There are also numerous reports of barangay officials who refuse to assist victims of VAWG. Either the barangay personnel are unaware that they are tasked by law to provide frontline assistance to VAWG victims, or they are ignoring the law, dismissing such cases as private domestic disputes where outsiders should not intervene.

Counseling services are also needed to persuade women to file complaints against abusers who are members of their family. Even women who are affluent, educated and aware of the law can hesitate to file complaints, fearing humiliation or stigma that might affect their families.

From Nov. 25 to Dec. 10, UN Women is carrying out “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence” worldwide. Launched in 2008, this year’s theme is “UNITE! Activism to end violence against women and girls.” This is another pandemic that calls for an intensified response.



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